Galloping into 2004

It looks like post production is sprinting out of the starting gate in 2004 as the result of expectations for a major upturn in capital investment empowered by the welcome cash flow of increased production-especially in high end technologies. Here's the buzz on some of that biz as the new year is a'dawning with the proviso that these are not early pre-NAB announcements. This is all happening now.

"We're confident 2004 will be a year of rebound after a very challenging period," predicts Maurice Patel, product marketing manager for Discreet. "The increased interest in data-centric workflows will play into Discreet's strength as facilities invest more in IT infrastructures especially for HD applications."

Discreet is jumpstarting the year with an impressive new release of new software for their smoke and fire systems this month. Smoke 6.0 will be available on the new SGI Tezro platform which features up to four 700MHz MIPS RISC processors with 4MB L2 cache. This will make the smoke NLE capable of playing two real-time streams of uncompressed RGB, 4:4:4 HDTV (1080i and 1080/24p) allowing 10-bit RGB playback at 2K resolutions for more efficient conforming of digital intermediates. In addition, fire 6.0 on Onyx 350 will allow users to interactively work with up to 32 2K layers in a 3D compositing environment.


Pinnacle Systems is bringing out a brand new version of its high end Liquid blue "any in, any out" multiformat post system for broadcast. Version 5.6 features a new Auto Dissolve feature that adds transitions to multiple edits in one stroke and a new Track Matte editor that adds moving keys to composites. Not forgetting the audio side, v5.6 also gives us "Send to WaveLab" that adds audio effects to clips and sequences directly from Pinnacle's Steinberg WaveLab digital audio editor. Those who purchased a Liquid blue system after Sept. 12, 2003 can get the upgrade for free.

Even better, Pinnacle's Liquid chrome MPEG/DV editing software gets a free upgrade to v5.6 for all registered users. That will bring you FireWire I/O, a real time linear TimeWarp slo mo feature and a new ASIO driver to minimize I/O latency when using Pinnacle's Steinberg Nuendo audio workstation.

"We are really looking forward in 2004 to driving networked collaborative editing environments," says Jim Guerard, VP/GM for Advanced Editing at Pinnacle. "This will lead toward a tapeless infrastructure, and should prove very important for the way our systems interact with each other."


Canopus has been aggressively bringing out new technologies ranging from digital video converters to DV authoring tools. But for early 2004, Hiro Yamada, Canopus president and CEO, reveals his company will release a new turnkey HD edit system for broadcasters and high end post houses that is currently called HDW-1000. Derived from a prototype that Canopus developed last summer for NHK, the system's initial cost will be controlled by limiting the system to 1080i signals with 720p following soon. "We intend to provide realtime HD editing in an affordable package," Yamada explains, "so it will be priced about the same as today's standard definition systems"

The EDIUS package will also step up to HD with a new EDIUS Pro release. "This is a combination of our HD hardware and the EDIUS software," Yamada explains, "and builds on our experience editing MPEG. EDIUS Pro is the first economical software/hardware product that actually edits HD in its native format without up- and downconversion."

EDIUS Pro will use Canopus's proprietary compression chips, squeezing the signal during I/O about as much as HDCAM. "Otherwise disk storage would be too expensive for our system and real-time processing would be difficult," Yamada says. "But to retain the image quality, the actual internal editing will be with the full HD signal. Otherwise I think it would not be a true high definition editing system."

Yamada is also convinced the new HDV format that records high def video on a DV cassette is going to be a big hit in 2004. However, since HDV is stored as MPEG-2 (19 Mbps for 720p and 25 Mbps for 1080i) and gains its efficiency through an I, B, P frame coding sequence, accurate editing will present a challenge. But it looks as if Canopus will be one of the first to tackle it. "The reason why we have MPEG editing capability in our just released EDIUS 2.0 software is to prepare for HDV, " he claims. "Once HDV camcorders gain popularity and CPUs get fast enough, we'll have a version of EDIUS that can edit the new format in software only."

844/X NEWS

One of the most remarkable announcements to grace the early annum is that Media 100 is significantly slashing the price of its top end 844/Xe multistream NLE by more than 50 percent, from $44,995 to $19,995, and its entry level 844/Xi from $24,995 to $9,995 (a 60 percent drop). "Coupled with the fact we rolled out a new version 3.0 level of 844/X software in January, this will bring us back into the range of our traditional customers," explains Mike Savello, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing. "Introducing a brand new high end editing/compositing system only six months after 9/11 created some economic challenges for us, but we have always offered value-oriented products to a market that is differentiated by technological innovation. This price adjustment brings us back on that track."

At the same time, Media 100 is giving us their first edit system using the Genesis Engine technology developed for 844/X on the Mac platform, the Media 100 HD. As Rick Keilty, vice president of product management at Media 100 details for us, "We had developed a technology called HDX that converts material from HD to SD and back as part of the 844/X project. Although it features 10-bit uncompressed, resolution independent native HD and SD editing, we'll make sure Media 100 HD is also compatible with the tens of thousands of Mac-based Media 100i standard definition systems currently in use."

So it looks like we're geared to kick off the new year with vigor. Of course, there is lots more buzz in the breeze such as the tantalizing news that Leitch plans to introduce its first HD nonlinear editing system in 2004. But this column was about what is happening right as we turn the first page of the calendar, so that will have to wait for the NAB revelations springing out of the April Vegas fest.